Now that the forced merriment of the festive period is in the rearview mirror, us wrestling fans can turn our attention to what really matters- Wrestlemania season. The Royal Rumble is a matter of weeks away and the big event itself is just a couple of months down the line. 2018 looks set to be a big year for the WWE but not all is looking bright. As with any year in professional wrestling, several wrestlers are likely to leave the company, whether that be because of retirement, medical issues, or because the company has nothing left to offer them. 2017 saw a lot of talent leave the company, and 2018 looks set to have even more big more names step out of the WWE ring for the last time. Let’s take a look at five superstars who are likely to leave the WWE in 2018.
Of all the names on this list, Brock Lesnar is the one that really could go either way. After what was, quite frankly, a fairly lazy year in 2016, Brock put on some solid matches in 2017 with the likes of Goldberg, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles, and while his reign with the Universal Title has been polarizing to say the last, fans are genuinely in agreement that they would rather see the Beast Incarnate working for the WWE than not at all.
Brock signed a three-year contract extension with the company just before Wrestlemania 31, turning down a big money return to the UFC in the progress and while a return to The Octagon may be a difficult road, following his welfare policy violation back in 2016, it would still seem that Brock’s heart still yearns for a return to Dana White’s company at some point. While he may want that, though, other factors may work against Brock and he may still decide that an even lighter schedule with the WWE is a smarter option. Brock is heavily protected in the WWE, and a two or three match a year deal could prove ideal- if an agreement can’t be reached, however, then you can say goodbye to Brock after he inevitably loses the title to Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania.
It’s been a very long time since The Big Show has been relevant in the WWE and while he still may, occasionally, turn up on television to help get someone over, it is increasingly obvious that his time in the squared circle is coming to an end. The 7-foot star has had a long and storied career in the business and the company will no doubt want to give him a big send-off in 2018. His long rumoured match with Shaquille O Neal at Wrestlemania 33 was believed by many to be his last outing until the match was called off weeks before the event, so it seems likely that Show will be wanting to call things a day himself this year.
Goldust has always felt like one of those stars who never got quite the break he deserved. He has a unique gimmick, cuts a great promo, and is a solid performer in the ring, but at the ripe old age of 48, 2018 seems like a good time for Goldust to call it a day.
Last year we were given a brief glimpse of how good Goldust could be as a mid-card heel when he cut promos ripped straight from his 1990’s run against R-Truth, but since that brief heel run, he has been booked as comic relief once again, and he has even recently been sent down to help out the struggling 205 Live roster. Goldust has been a faithful servant to the WWE and he deserves a good send-off; one last run in the mid-card, culminating with a retirement match for the Intercontinental title would be a fitting way to say goodbye to Dustin.
There is a certain section of the WWE fanbase who believe that Dolph Ziggler’s recent actions with the US title could be the start of a main event push for the former World Heavyweight Champion. Equally, there are other members of the fanbase who believe that the event is just the company setting the wheels in motion for his retirement from the ring. Me? I’m not so sure, but the latter does, admittedly, seem more likely than the former.
Ziggler has been criminally underbooked for the majority of his career but the ship has now sailed on him as a potential main eventer. Ziggler would thrive on the independent circuit and his excellent in-ring work would no doubt see him put on some excellent matches around the world. Unless this is the start of a big push for Ziggler, then it is clear that his time within the WWE is coming to an end, and the kindest thing the WWE could do now is put Ziggler out of his misery and allow him to move on to pastures new.
The ‘will he, won’t he?’ saga surrounding Daniel Bryan’s in-ring status is likely to dominate dirtsheet headlines for the majority of 2018, especially as the company continues to tease it with his ongoing feud with Shane McMahon. Bryan’s contract with the company is up at the end of September, and the current Smackdown GM has not exactly been subtle when it comes to how he feels about his current status.
Bryan has expressed on multiple occasions that he feels he is fit to wrestle, and with the independent circuit in a very good place at the start of 2018, will the lure of a hero’s return to the likes of ROH be too strong for Bryan to resist? Cody Rhodes has already publicly expressed interest in Bryan returning to the ring for his Bullet Club PPV later in the year (this will be impossible, though, due to the event taking place a matter of days before Bryan’s contract expires.) and there will be plenty of other interest in him if he does opt to leave the WWE.
If Bryan is not cleared by the WWE, then he will, inevitably, walk away from the company and while it will be a major loss for the WWE, it is likely one they will be willing to make. The company will no doubt be painted as villains online if this does happen but the WWE is right in sticking by what their medical staff says and if they believe they are putting an employee at risk, then they are right to not allow Bryan back into the ring, despite what the fans think. This situation is going to be an interesting one to watch over the next nine months but I suspect that the fans, and Bryan, will not get the outcome that they want here.